From the Commentary Box – Monday, 20 January 2014

They got it wrong …….again!

Last Saturday’s opening day of Wellington Cup week at Trentham was billed as Super Saturday.

With great fields carded including  two Group One races and three other black type races, the Super Saturday billing looked well justified.

Unfortunately, one of the important ingredients for a successful day, an even and fair racing surface, was again missing.

Several years ago at this very carnival, the Wellington Racing Club copped a barrage of criticism after presenting a track which had been clearly over watered.

Horses which were crying out for good track conditions, were subject to conditions more akin to winter racing.

The upshot of that scenario was the formation of a Track Committee which would over see the preparation of the racing surface for future racing.

Last week, that Track Committee gave it’s recommendations to Track Manager Lyn Biddle, in preparation for the opening day of Wellington Cup week.

Those recommendations were based on the predicted weather forecast.

My understanding is Biddle over rode those recommendations, and believing the predicted rain would arrive, didn’t irrigate what was fast becoming a hard racing surface.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but Biddle and his mates at the Weather Office, got it wrong.

The rain didn’t arrive.

The danger signs were there on Saturday morning when a Good 2 reading was posted for the Trentham track.

The upshot was, during the day, with warm summer like conditions and a reasonably stiff breeze, the inevitable happened and the track was upgraded to a Fast 1.

I cannot recall a single instance of any race track, let alone a Metropolitan track like Trentham, being called a Fast 1.

For those who may not be aware, a Fast 1 track reading would be akin to racing down State Highway One…..it is that hard.

This will cause unnecessary wear and tear on horses legs competing on the day.

It is completely unacceptable.

Several trainers showed their concern over the Track conditions by late scratching their horses, from their races, during the day.

Two of those late scratchings, Cauthen and Ginner Hart, were in one of the Group One races, the Telegraph Handicap.

Connections of both horses were not prepared to risk their horses on the flint hard track, especially at the start of a new preparation.

“We’ve got some ambitious plans for Cauthen, including racing in Aussie, and all that could be undone on that track today” said trainer Andrew Campbell after pulling the pin on the Telegraph start.

Cauthen was also the favourite for the race at the time of his scratching.

Jockeys throughout the day were saying how their mounts were not hitting out on the hard surface.

One of those seriously affected was O’Fille, who started the hottest priced favourite of the day in the Trentham Stakes.

Rider Leith Innes claimed O’Fille hated the hard track.

“She was never travelling at any stage and it was only because of the track” said Innes.

Further compounding matters was the affect the hard racing surface would have on the immediate future campaigns of the horses who raced last Saturday.

Take the Ocean Park Levin Classic race, the other Group One feature on the card, for instance.

A number of those starters would be destined to race in the TV3 NZ Derby at Ellerslie in March.

But those plans must be in doubt now after having to be subjected to the hard track.

I saw several horses returning to scale after the race, noticeably “short” in their action.

In any other racing jurisdiction, heads would roll over this latest catastrophe.

I will go out on a limb and say, nothing will happen here.

And that’s a shame.

Wellington Cup week deserves better.

Cheers

George